The Old is Good Enough (Luke 5:39)

Here’s a verse that perplexes some folk:

No one, after drinking old wine wishes for new; for he says, “The old is good enough.” (Luke 5:39)

If the new wine is the new covenant, why would anyone prefer the old? People go with the law only because they haven’t tried grace right?

The new covenant is better in every way – the Bible says so. Surely no one who has tried both would prefer the old. It doesn’t make sense.

But it makes perfect sense to someone like me.

The obsolete covenant

Those of us who use desktop PCs occasionally get messages that say “this program is no longer supported by the developer.” This means the program has become obsolete, and we are supposed to download the newer and better replacement. Obsolete does not mean the program has stopped working, but it does mean we will no longer get support from the people who made it.

The problem is some people resist change. If the old program is still working, we won’t replace it. We’ll keep using the old email program or the old browser and ignore the persistent reminders to upgrade.

At first this is not a problem. Everything seems to operate as normal. But the end result is invariably heartache and distress. “Where did all my emails go?”

If you’re accustomed to Moses, you won’t see your need for Jesus. If your liquor is law, you won’t guzzle grace. This is why Jesus said sinners were entering the kingdom ahead of the religious (Matthew 21:31). Unacquainted with the old wine of rule-keeping and proper behavior, they were more than ready to imbibe the new wine of unconditional love and acceptance.

No one puts new wine into old wineskins lest the new wine will burst the skins and be spilled out, and the skins will be ruined. But new wine must be put into fresh wineskins. (Luke 5:37–38)

Almost every time Jesus engaged with the priests in the temple, there was conflict and aggravation. The new wine wouldn’t go into the old bottle. The new wine needed a new bottle, a new temple of the Holy Spirit.

No doubt many of the priests breathed a sigh of relief when Jesus died. “Finally we can get back to the way we’ve always done things.” The old covenant had been replaced by the new, but they weren’t interested in upgrading.

“The old is good enough”

Pause for a moment and reflect on the audacity of that statement: The old is good enough. In other words, Jesus died for nothing. Every penitent who brought an animal to the temple and every priest who killed it was essentially saying, “God, your Son’s sacrifice means nothing to me.” What an offense to heaven. What a slap in the face of the Savior.

But no lightning bolts fell, and the ground did not open up and swallow these blasphemers.

When Aaron’s sons brought an unauthorized offering into the tabernacle, fire from God consumed them (Leviticus 10:1–2). Nadab and Abihu died as screaming, burning testimonies to the seriousness of sin. But that was under the old covenant.

Now in the new covenant, priests who brought unauthorized sacrifices went home unharmed. They didn’t know it but the old priests were living testimonies of God’s grace.

Had the old covenant still been in effect, there could have been fire and screaming. There would have been one animal sacrifice and no more. But the old covenant was finished, so unauthorized and blasphemous sacrifices continued for years.

But he, having offered one sacrifice for sins for all time, sat down at the right hand of God. (Hebrews 10:12)

Jesus sat down but the Jews remained standing for there are no chairs in the temple. For 40 years they carried on with their religious rituals as though nothing had changed when everything had changed. The proof is God never judged them, not in AD30, nor in AD70.

How could he when their sin had been borne by the Savior they rejected?

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14 Comments on The Old is Good Enough (Luke 5:39)

  1. Moses Kawuma // December 7, 2017 at 12:17 am // Reply

    I love reading everything you write. Thanks.

  2. Trevor Lancashire // December 7, 2017 at 1:26 am // Reply

    I love this one – Thank you Paul for empahasising once again the importance of leaving the old behind – What comes over so well are the dangers of continuing in something that is now obsolete – Clearly a DEAD END!! Trevor Lancashire (Lyme Regis).

  3. I love this analogy, and I pray that it might help some to understand and receive the gospel in a way nothing else has!

  4. This is a great post that gets right to the heart of most Christians’ problems. Religious Christianity acts as though Jesus didn’t come at all. Even most of us who believe we are saved by Grace and Faith alone don’t really believe we are kept and blessed by Grace and Faith alone. We still think we reap just what we sow and that God can’t bless us because we are not good enough. The Bible is just one big book with grace and judgment mixed together for the believer and we never really know how God is going to act. Thank God we here are renewing our minds away from that and learning how to rightly divide between the 2 major covenants. Thank you Paul! Posts like this are so vital.

  5. If it was blasphemous, why did Paul after making his vow, take a sacrifice to the temple? (Acts 21:26) That whole story confuses me…

    • Excellent question, Sara. Paul understood the finished work of Christ better than anyone, so why did he participate in a temple ritual (Acts 21:26)? I believe he did it to win souls. “To the Jews I became as a Jew, so that I might win Jews; to those who are under the Law, as under the Law though not being myself under the Law, so that I might win those who are under the Law” (1 Cor 9:20).

      Under law, the issue would be framed as right or wrong. “Did Paul do the right thing?” But under grace, the issue is life and death. By engaging with the Jews (or the Greeks, the Romans, etc.), Paul sought release the love and life of God.

      The man who said we have been washed and sanctified in the name of Jesus (1 Cor 6:11), did not go to the temple to get purified. He did it to avoid trouble and to help out a friend (see Acts 21:18ff).

  6. Excellent explanation Paul! I love law vs grace!

  7. how could Gods grace be on the priests if they hadn’t believed in Jesus? are you saying salvation is universal? please explain, thanks 🙂

    • Salvation is not universal – all must respond – but the grace and favor of God is shown to all. The sunshine of his love shines on the wicked and the just. The problem is not all receive it.

      “For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people” (Tit 2:11).

  8. Perfectly explained! The best explanation I have heard in a long, long time! I haven’t heard nor read anything about this particular scripture (Luke 5:39) for eons, even though I understood the reference to the old and the new wine skins. It’s a beautiful enlightning scripture on our new man (born again), for we are the new wine skins. Therefore take off the old and put on the new that is impatiently waiting for you to realise you already have it all! you are just not choosing to wear it yet. It had to be this way as sin cannot enter into heaven.

    Thank you

  9. Thanks for your explanation of Luke 5:39 as a refreshing connection to my life verse, “I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing” – Galatians 2:21. I know as I grow in the knowledge of God, I will find a perfect perspective of all that’s written in the Bible. Thanks to your anointed blogs, they serve their purpose well. God bless you always.

  10. Thank you for confirming what l tell my Christian friends that we need to keep our eyes on Jesus and stop blaming the devil as a believer in Christ we belong to Him Whatever we go through in life we must never forget Jesus has allowed it. Job is a example of how God will deliver you when you have set your mind on Him alone as your source Amen

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